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(DV) Whitney: Why Not Torture Judith Miller?







Why Not Torture Judith Miller?
by Mike Whitney
October 3, 2005

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Let’s see if I got this right.

The New York Times’ star investigative reporter Judith Miller spent 12 weeks in the hoosegow only to discover that she actually had permission to testify before the Federal grand jury the whole time? Is this what the Times means when they say that she had to confirm that she “finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver” from her source. (Ass. Chief of Staff “Scooter” Libby)

Oh, so it was all just a big mistake?

The facts, however, indicate that there may have been other factors that led to Miller changing her mind, including the prospect of spending another 60 days in the slammer. Apparently, her role of “martyr for the First amendment” has a shelf life of about 12 weeks after which she returns to her day job of dissembling pawn for the ruling party.

Miller’s sudden “change-of-heart” hasn’t dulled the Times’ appetite for singing her praises. According to them she is still the undisputed champion of free speech (“No newspaper reporter has ever spent so much time in custody to defend the right to protect confidential sources.”) and the unfortunate victim of an unfair law. In a circuitous and lawyerly defense of Miller, the Times asks why her source (Libby) didn’t simply make a public statement that would have excused her from any obligation to withhold information. That’s logical enough, and that’s the way these things normally go down.

Not according to the editors of the Times:

“We believe the person in the best position to judge when a source is sincerely waiving promises of confidentiality is the reporter who made the guarantee… She has won the right to that confidence with three months' stay in a tough jail.”

In other words, Miller has earned the right to go from Rosa Parks (the Times’ description) to a common stool pigeon without explanation and while still upholding the highest standards of the Times’ editorial staff. Now, that is an impressive transformation!

The Times’ hypocrisy is incidental compared to the inequities of a system that protects criminals like Miller while dispatching Muslims to Guantanamo for lesser offenses. By any measure, Miller’s withholding of evidence posed a direct threat to national security. Whoever leaked the name of Valerie Plame to the press knew that her “outing” would put covert operations and CIA agents working in the field at direct risk. It’s clear that Miller knows who that person is and is acting as their accomplice by refusing to reveal his name.

So far, the Bush administration has consistently suspended the civil liberties of anyone who is even remotely considered a risk to national security. Moreover, the president has repeatedly claimed the authority to do “whatever is necessary to guarantee the safety of the American people”, even if that involves rescinding the Bill of Rights. This is the rationale that underscores the war on terror.

So, what’s difference here?

By Bush’s logic, Miller should have been trundled off to a secret location where she could have been beaten and abused until she provided the information required by the grand jury. She should have been intimidated by snarling guard dogs and fitted for a leash so she could be photographed prostrate on the floor of her cell by fun-loving interrogators from private security firms.

Imagine the public outcry if Miller appeared on the front page of the Times standing stock-still, bound and hooded, while the impish Lynndie England pointed at her genitals; or, if she was draped in sackcloth and propped up on a packing crate with electrical wiring draped from her hands and feet.

Is that what it will take to wake people up to the horrors of the current system?

Miller was a key player in fabricating the information that plunged the country into the worst disaster in American history. Still, she is entitled to every benefit provided under the law. The inmates of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bush’s other gulags deserve that very same consideration.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

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